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Burlington Turns To Private Donors For Bike Path Improvements

Taylor Dobbs
Burlington officials to use a mix of public and private funding for a $15 million renovation to the 8-mile waterfront bike path.

In his administration’s continuing efforts to make investments in Burlington’s Parks & Recreation infrastructure, Mayor Miro Weinberger announced a new funding strategy for expensive projects in the city’s parks.

The Parks Foundation of Burlington, which has been quietly fundraising and funding small projects since last year, officially launched a $500,000 campaign Thursday to help fund a major overhaul of the city’s 8-mile bike path.

The $500,000 fundraising campaign comes after the foundation has already raised another half-million dollars for the project. In addition to $1 million from this year’s city budget and $3 million through a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district, the private funding would bring total funding for the redevelopment to $5 million.

Officials haven’t announced plans for how to cover the rest of the bike path work, which is expected to cost $15 million. Weinberger said those funding plans will be announced in the fall.

Parks, Recreation and Waterfront Director Jesse Bridges said the renovations will help the northern sections of the bike path in the city’s “urban reserve” be more than a transportation corridor.

“Part of the urban reserve project is a complete realignment of the [bike] path,” he said. “So the path will move closer to the water. We will do shoreline restoration, additional native tree plantings and the creation of multiple 'pause places' and mini parks in that space to really make it a more welcoming and inviting space that people want to move to and through instead of just putting their heads down and blasting on to the next stop.”

Construction began on the redevelopment last year with new paving on the bike path within Waterfront Park and plans for a new skate park. The work announced this week will continue north from existing construction with repaving and realignment planned for the entire bike path.

"The path will move closer to the water. We will do shoreline restoration, additional native tree plantings and the creation of multiple 'pause places' and mini parks in that space." - Jesse Bridges, Parks, Recreation and Waterfront director

Weinberger said it’s been clear since soon after he took office in 2012 that the bike path needed work, but the path to financing that work was unclear.

“I knew right away we had to get this done. This is a generation call and challenge to preserve and even improve this great bike path,” he said. “But it wasn’t immediately obvious to me how we were going to get it done. This was a real challenge. It was coming just as the concern and the challenge with Burlington Telecom was reaching its peak, and the ability of the city to put more dollars in when we had this significant debt and lawsuit going on was, I thought, very limited.”

Weinberger said the ongoing climate of high property taxes made him hesitant to ask taxpayers for more funding for the bike path, so the city decided to pursue a partnership with local philanthropists through the private nonprofit foundation.

The Parks Foundation of Burlington has now funded seven projects, including solar-powered trash-compacting disposal bins in Waterfront Park and partial funding of the new skate park. The $500,000 contribution to the bike path project makes up 76 percent of the organization’s spending so far, according to data provided by the foundation.

Taylor was VPR's digital reporter from 2013 until 2017. After growing up in Vermont, he graduated with at BA in Journalism from Northeastern University in 2013.
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